New Year: a world of celebration

From foxtrots in Vienna to wave-jumping in Brazil, ushering in the New Year is memorable at traditional celebrations throughout the world

It is New Year’s Eve and a woman in Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid is clutching a bunch of grapes. As the clock begins to strike 12, she pops one into her mouth, following that with another in time with the sounds of midnight, filling her cheeks with juicy sweetness and, it is said, prosperity for the year to come. Las doce uvas de la suerte are one example of how countries around the world welcome in the New Year in all kinds of memorable ways.

Hogmanay, New Year's Eve in Scotland is a midwinter partying date that does not disappoint. As well as foods such as rumbledethumps (boiled potatoes mashed with stir fried cabbage) and seven-cup pudding (steamed pudding with dried fruit and spices), Scots enjoy plenty of dancing and revelry. People traditionally celebrate with the purification rituals of de-cluttering and scrubbing the house and doorstep just before midnight. When the clock strikes 12, assembled companies burst into song with ''Auld Lang Syne'', a toast to health, wealth and happiness for the year to come.

Those lucky enough to be in sunny Brazil on 31 December will find a plethora of local celebrations. Already a nation that needs no excuse to party, Brazilians up the ante on New Year’s Eve making merry at towns and villages up and down the country’s beautiful coast. Dancing under the stars with sand between their toes, upbeat locals traditionally wear white in homage to Yemaja, the pagan goddess of the ocean. It is customary to usher in good luck by eating fish then, at midnight, tossing flowers into the sea and skipping seven waves. With each wave jumped, one wish must be made.

Fireworks are a central element to New Year celebrations throughout the world and Dubai is no exception. Here, the towering Burj Khalifa in the downtown and sale-shaped Burj Al Arab on the water’s edge are the annual focus of awe-inspiring displays. To top off the emirate’s celebratory mood in 2013, fantasy-style hotel brand Atlantis is going one better and hosting the world’s largest fireworks display. The spectacular event is set to take place at the famous World Islands and The Palm. The occasion attempts to break a record set in Kuwait in 2012 using 77,282 fireworks, stretching over five kilometres and lasting one hour and four minutes.

In the cold of central Europe, partygoers stay in doors. Once the capital of Europe’s most powerful Empire - and possessing a rich confection of impressive architecture to prove it - Vienna makes a stunning backdrop to an elegant winter dancing tradition. Ladies in full-length gowns and men in tails, tuxedos or uniform are a striking sight amidst the grandeur of Vienna’s imperial Hofburg Palace. As well as marking the New Year with glamour, Le Grand Bal gets the ball season off to a glittering start.

Whether they represent spiritual traditions carried down through generations or a lusty celebration of the present, New Year rituals can’t help but bring the world together.